We've been off the air for a few weeks, mostly holiday conflicts and too much food in the house, you know how it is.
This post would have marked our return to regular posting.
But I just can't do it.
It's not the first time in the last few weeks I'd uttered those words. Maybe I'm getting soft.
In fact, this very sentiment has hit me, including this weekend, three times in as many weeks.
1. Before Christmas, out on the road, finishing up some shopping. I decided that since I was roughly in the vicinity of a place I liked to have a little chili now and then, that this would hit the spot.
The chili itself was fine, as always. Everything else and I mean everything, was awful. The dining area had not been cleaned or swept. The wait was terribly long (25 minutes for a bowl of chili) at one point the person in charge told the impatient line at the counter that if they were in a hurry, they might want to go somewhere else. While waiting, I counted three people going to the counter to report that their order was incomplete or wrong. The place was not all that busy, it was adequately staffed, I sensed a huge management issue.
I started a harsh blog review. About halfway through, I gave up. I was embarrassed for the place, seriously embarrassed. Instead, I wrote a letter to the manager, detailing the issues I'd noticed. I mailed it on a Saturday. The following Tuesday night I saw a Facebook post saying that the place was closing, permanently, the next day. That was confirmed by an article on a news site later.
There's no way my letter was the cause. It would not have even been received at the address I posted it to until Tuesday or Wednesday, plus I seriously doubt that a letter from me, a tongue in cheek amateur reviewer, would push any business owner over the edge.
I felt really bad for the employees though. As I said, I saw what was very obviously a serious management problem. I assume that by the time I went there the closure was already decided and what I was witnessing was the complete absence/retreat of management.
2. Sometime the next week, I had a couple of days off, I decided once again to try a more local place, a diner of sorts, to get some breakfast. I've actually been there a half dozen times since it opened, but have always been reluctant to write about it.
I want it to be good, I really do, I like local people opening up places and thriving. But this place can't seem to make a decent breakfast. The hash browns are bland and greasy, the toast comes out cold, and the coffee is weak and bitter. It's been this way for a while. I can go a couple more miles and have a great breakfast, every time, at one of the national franchises. IHOP, Waffle House, Huddle Hut, all make better breakfast plates than this local diner. Heck, even I can make a better breakfast. I mentioned it here once, quite a while back, but I've been deliberately NOT writing about it on subsequent visits.
3. This weekend. A place that opened up about a year ago. The owners used to run another restaurant, one we liked a lot, but they lost the lease on the charming location. Instead of re-opening in another location, they opened up a different style of place a few blocks from the original. We tried it, reviewed it and were generally underwhelmed. I dinged it on several points, some major, many minor, but since it was a 'just-open' review, I gave it a lot of slack. We hadn't been back. No one in the family really wanted to go back, it was that un-fulfilling. However, recently we heard they'd brought a couple of the dishes from the old place over to the new place.
Solid, we loved those dishes, so we went.
Annnnnd, once again, underwhelmed. They'd even changed a key component of that one beloved dish.
Leaving the place, Angel remarked that the meat on the plate she had was very dry, under seasoned and that even though she'd put half of it in a take-out box, she would probably not want any more of it. Adam, who had ordered the old dish said he just couldn't get around that replaced key ingredient. I couldn't either. It was good, well, okay, but once again we could get better nearby. In summary, we found nothing really positive about the whole experience. The service wasn't awful, but it was a bit erratic and spotty. The place was clean, but noticeably not very busy for a Saturday night. They don't serve alcohol, that might be part of it.
I told Angel afterwards that I just didn't think I could do it. I know (have met) the owners, I do not want them to fail. Good, local, hard working people, I just think they may be off track with this particular venture.
It has been brought to my attention a few times that people actually read this site, though I am always a little surprised by that. Sure, the page has been accessed nearly two hundred thousand times, but I'm not sure how accurate that count is.
I've received comments from a few people saying they tried or avoided a place because of my reviews, which always scares me a little. I'm not accustomed to people taking me, especially my personal tastes, seriously.
But I'm in a state of mind now, where I just don't want to stand over a locally owned business and call them out for subjective issues. I don't mean to harm anyone's business. I'm actually a nice guy, really.
I've decided the following for now, it may change later should my heart harden back up a bit.
We may not post as many reviews. We will still go to places, especially locally owned places and try them out. If it is good, we'll review it. If it's pretty good, except for a few minor issues, we'll tell you that as well.
But if there is just nothing good to say about a locally owned place, as the old adage goes: If you can't say anything nice. . . .
As for the chains and franchises? Well, lets just say different rules may apply.